Georgia has a relatively small area of coastline, but we think it is one of the hidden gems of the ICW. Wide, sandy, near-deserted beaches. Long stretches of pristine marshland and shore birds interspersed with small hammocks. The few marinas and stops are loaded with personality and history. Many boaters go ‘outside’ to the Atlantic to avoid this stretch of the ICW because of shallow and shoaling areas, big tide swings, and strong currents in some areas. But we love the scenery, abundant wildlife, sunrises and sunsets. And now that this is our third trip along the Atlantic ICW, the route is familiar and we can spend more time enjoying the view and not worrying about the navigation quite as much (but still have to stay vigilant). We also can’t help but reflect on how much more comfortable and confident we are now compared to a year ago.
Click the Google Map button below to open the map in a separate window. There you can zoom in/out, and click on the icons to see pictures and more info on the various places along our route.
Jekyll Island, GA
Mar 20-26, 2022
Jekyll Island was a new stop for us with an interesting history. The Spanish, French, and English all fought over it for the first 250 years (after forcing out the native population, of course). After the American Revolution made Georgia a state rather than a colony, a French dude who didn’t want to become a member of The French Revolution Guillotine Club started a plantation there, complete with slave labor. The land was passed down through the family, and in the late 19th – early 20th century, it was purchased by a bunch of rich guys who developed it into their exclusive winter retreat – the Jekyll Club. After WWII, the State of Georgia bought it – although from whom we know not – and it is now managed by a state board.
We stayed a week at Jekyll Harbor Marina. This was one of those ideal small marinas – beautiful setting, great location to see the island, nice mix of full-time v. transient boaters, and a restaurant on site (where we had our first untraumatized slice of key lime pie). There was also Mo the Cat at the marina, who took a liking to Dave and ignored Roxy. Beaches on the island are spacious and beautiful, and paved bike trails circumnavigate and criss-cross the island. The Historic District is the location of the Jekyll Club and large 100-year-old homes (now used for events, galleries, and tours – no one lives in them) on well-maintained grounds. They even play croquet in front of the luxury hotel with players clad in all-white. Everything is owned and managed by the state, and residential communities are limited to people owning the homes but not the land (they ‘lease’ it from the state). All this means it’s not overrun by tourists, but they seem to have done a good job of developing tourism without destroying the natural beauty.
We took advantage of everything, either riding our bikes along the trails or borrowing a loaner golf cart from the marina to take Roxy to the beach. The bike paths wind through palmetto and pine tree forests, along the beaches, over boardwalks at the waters edge, and through the Historic District. We went to Driftwood Beach, located on the ocean side of the island, with the large trees that have washed up there and bleached out, lending it a rather prehistoric look. It was a short walk from the marina to Beach Village, sort of the hub of the hotel district, to have breakfast or pick up some grocery items at Jekyll Market (more tourist souvenirs than groceries, but all there was on the island). There were lots of restaurants to choose from, and we patronized Zachry’s right there at the marina for their outdoor seating on the porch and the best view of the sunset over the marina. (We had some lovely sunsets, but the noseeums always quickly drove us inside when we tried to enjoy them from the deck.) They happened to be filming the musical remake of The Color Purple on Driftwood Beach while we were there, but no Oprah or Spielberg sightings, though they did take over an entire parking lot for their ‘compound’ with lots of trucks and trailers.
The one thing we could NOT find on the whole island was a coffee shop. We went the whole week and was never able to find our afternoon latte. I mean, what’s. up with that? Seems like a great business opportunity for a barista.
There were a couple days when Jekyll morphed into Hyde with the weather. Two afternoons of 25+ mph winds with gusts in the 30’s made for some rocking and rolling for all the boats, including us, that were on the long face dock. The dock was in a north-south orientation, and with winds out of the west and coming across flat marshland, we endured a broadside assault. The waves would push us into the dock, then rebound and go back in the other direction, creating a ‘washing machine sea’ of more churning of the water than the usual rhythmic swells. We sprinted across open sections of dock in between cold sea spray blowing across to avoid getting wet. We even had one afternoon when there was a tornado watch in effect for a couple hours, and saw dark clouds just north of us and even some fingers extending down (but never reaching the ground). What to do in case of a tornado when you live on a boat is something to think about – not a lot of basements in coastal areas.
We enjoyed the daily parade along the ICW as the northern migration season ramps up – especially for the record number of Loopers this year. It was here that we really started connecting with the Looping Community. We watched for boats flying the AGLCA burgee (flag), as well as monitored a tracking app popular with Loopers called Nebo that allows you to see other boats nearby. One day I counted 11 boats right there in our small marina! That evening a bunch of us gathered for Happy Hour at the onsite restaurant, and we met several other couples. It was a great opportunity to compare experiences, itineraries, and stories. Walking along the dock, we even saw and chatted with another boat from Stillwater MN ; they started their loop in Red Wing and so are about halfway done.
The Story of The Wanderer
It’s not a person, but a ship – and a sordid piece of Jekyll Island history – that was the next to last slave ship to arrive in the US. Built in 1857 as a personal private yacht by yet another rich dude in NY, The Wanderer’s design made it the fastest sailing vessel around. Once finished, it was almost immediately sold to a front man for a bunch of other rich dudes on Jekyll Island, including the owner of the island, led by a guy named Lamar. He rigs it out with a secret deck for African slave transport, even though the import of slaves was abolished 50 years earlier. It takes on almost 500 slaves in Africa in 1858, then arrives six weeks later on Jekyll Island with only 409. The feds confiscate the ship and arrest the front man, Lamar, and a few others for illegally trafficking in slaves, but — and here’s the kicker – because Georgia is still a slave state they are allowed to sell the slaves and keep the profits! I mean, what the…??? That’s like arresting dirtbags for trafficking people for prostitution, but because they take them to Nevada where prostitution is legal it’s okay to pimp them out! A group of conspirators and financers of The Wanderer are tried by the feds (in Georgia), with the district judge being Lamar’s father-in-law, and are all are acquitted. Lamar also has the dubious distinction of being the last Confederate killed in the Civil War, seven days after the surrender at Appomattox.
There is a monument to the slaves on The Wanderer at the park where we took Roxy to the beach, which is what piqued my interest to learn more. The story disturbed me on many fronts, and it’s one that should be told. Shoot! If I’d run into Oprah or Spielberg I would have told them that this is the movie they should be making, and the movie version of the Broadway musical version of the movie version of the book can wait.
Sunbury Crab Company
We left Jekyll for a long day transit north. Because we have the ability to go faster across open water stretches, we caught up to a line of our new Looper friends that had departed a couple days earlier. The winds were picking up and we passed the line of boats as we kicked it into high gear and turned off the ICW into the wide mouth of the Medway River. We noticed that most of the line also turned and realized we were all going to the same place.
Sunbury Crab Company is a family run restaurant with their own docks – strategically located in the rather barren but beautiful stretch of the ICW between Jekyll Island and Savanna. We arrived and were met by Bernard, one of the owners. Every 10 minutes afterward another boat arrived, all of whom we knew from Jekyll. Bernard was supposed to have another worker coming on duty at 2 pm to help, but we pulled up to the empty dock at 1:15 and then every new arrival helped with the next as the wind gusts continued, until six boats were tied up by 2. We couldn’t have choreographed it better it we tried.
Bernard’s wife Elaine manages the restaurant and marina, and couldn’t have been more gracious or hospitable. The restaurant is a local favorite, and they live right next door. They bought the property when it was just a cement pier, and added the restaurant, docks, bait shop, and guesthouse slowly over the years. We had to wait to pay for our dockage until Tommy got there because he was the only one who knew how to work the new payment technology — a handheld credit card processor. They serve locally fished seafood, catch the crabs right their off their dock, and buy shrimp from local fishermen. The group of us had an early dinner in the restaurant that is a wonderful mix of rustic fish camp, tiki bar, and open air dockside dining. There were even peacocks, of all things, on the grounds! Bonus was that I was able to rehome my rosemary plant that has not been happy in the salt water and random sun exposure on the boat; Elaine welcomed the addition to the herb garden that her chefs used. We spent the evening chatting with a fellow retired Navy Looper and his wife from Coronado, CA, and taking Roxy on a walk through the lovely surrounding neighborhood. At bedtime, it was so quiet that we could hear dolphins nearby but it was too dark across the water to see them.
Isle of Hope
Everyone was heading north the next morning around the same time, as Sunbury was really just an overnight stop. We followed one of the boats most of the way, turning back onto the ICW at Bear River, to the Ogeechee River, through Hell Gate into Green Island Sound, the Vernon River, and finally Skidaway River where we docked at Isle of Hope Marina just south of Savannah. Isle of Hope is a community nestled between several rivers and marinas, technically in the town of Sandfly, a suburb of Savannah. There is the marina and the historic Wormsloe Plantation (which we did not visit), but otherwise it is all residential. And the homes are beautiful; it was such a pleasure to walk Roxy along the streets and waterfront, avoiding the golf carts that seemed to be the primary mode of transportation. Large oaks, beautiful gardens, large front porches with swings, and azaleas in full bloom made us feel like we were walking through a Hallmark movie setting. We were supposed to have spent Thanksgiving week here in our original voyage plan this past fall, but we all know how that turned out. Savannah would have been an Uber away, but since we’ve been to Savannah several times this was just a one night stop for us this time – and a lovely one at that – as we make our way north
Continuing north we will cross into South Carolina next, with another planned longer stay in Hilton Head. We’re once again chasing 70 degrees and it’s still a little chilly further north, so we’re taking our time. Goal is still to be back in Hampton Roads by April 19, and we are on track – just need weather to cooperate. But Mother Nature has already shown herself to be rather temperamental, so we are keeping a close lookout.
Pops’ Stats Corner*
- Tot days covered this blog: 8
- Travel days: 2
- Miles traveled: 109.1 nm / 125.5 sm
- Marinas: 2
- Oprah sightings: 0
- Almost tornadoes: 1
- And yes, Dan Quayle, I looked up the spelling of the plural of tornado. It’s either way.
*’Pops’ is what the family called Dave’s dad. He had an amazing mind for any kind of statistic, earning him the nickname Numbers from the Stillwater high school coaches for whom he kept team stats. This regular feature of the blog is named in his honor.